If Courtney Marie Andrews was a flower, it would blossom towards the front facing world with beauty and grace, emitting bold colors and character, and a robust fragrance, easily revered by anyone coming upon it, yet unique in form. And despite its seemingly delicate design, it would be strong enough to withstand brisk winds or rustling, and hold to its contours confidently.
But that’s not exactly the state the new record finds Courtney Marie in. It’s during that moment in a bloom’s life many weeks removed from being freshly picked and placed in a vase when the leaves and petals begin to wilt and brown, curling at the ends, clinging for dear life to the stem before eventually succumbing to the weight of the world, with little vitality left in the once supple membranes, and the brittle husk that held such beauty before readying its return to the dust from which it came.
But even in this sad state, stripped of most of the original color, a beauty is still conveyed, much more subtle and harder to spy than before, but reminding one of the love and life that its form once held, only now its the decay that tells the story in a reminiscent reminder of what once was, like a worn old barn leaning abandoned in an open prairie. Lost, and lonely.
We knew Courtney Marie Andrews and producer Andrew Sarlo’s vision was to take a sedate and simple approach to this record, only utilizing two other musicians aside from Courtney Marie herself, namely Twain’s Matthew Davidson on bass, guitar, and keys, and Big Thief’s James Krivchenia on drums and percussion. But what we didn’t know is that Old Flowers would present itself as such a devastating breakup record.
When we last left Courtney Marie Andrews, she was decked out in glitter and fringe, strumming on an electric hollow body, taking her folk songs in a decidedly soul rock direction, and earning a wide audience for her swagger, soaring voice, and enthusiasm. Now you’ve stumbled into a listening room, where even the slightest peep from the audience feels like a insult to the song. That’s what she wants from you—to hush up, lean in, and really listen.
Those willing to adhere to this guidance will be rewarded handsomely. The moments of self-doubt, second-guessing, guilt, reflection, and worry for a future when love may never be welcomed into the heart again are what fill the passages of Old Flowers, along with the many bits of wisdom these moments often impart.
But like most connoisseurs left to their own devices will pick the spry new bloom as opposed to the shriveled bouquet, Old Flowers will find difficulty attracting new Courtney Marie Andrews acolytes, even if it’s warmly received by established devotees. Getting a little lost in process and approach as opposed to seeking out the right arrangement for each individual expression, the album doesn’t always achieve holding your attention.
When Old Flowers does forge the right approach, it’s hard to pull away from. “If I Told” envelops you in the very cardiac emotions that inspired the song, leaving you in a lingering mood well after the last note. “It Must Be Someone Else’s Fault” finds a refreshingly more full and upbeat sound for an otherwise quiet record. And who doesn’t ponder the “what if’s” of passing acquaintances and friendships that never developed into something more, especially when nursing a wounded heart like is captured in the verses of “Ships in the Night”?
Old Flowers may take the right perspective and patience to fully appreciate. But there is ample beauty to be found when approached with ponderance and proper composure.
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